Childhood nostalgia captivates pachinko game owners in Canada and beyond

While decluttering her Vancouver home, Cindy Brodowski wondered whether to let go of the sturdy 45-year-old Daiichi pachinko machine she inherited from her late father, Canadian footballer Baz Nagle, and which had been left untouched. in the garage for two decades.

But after listing the $250 vertical stand-up pinball machine on Facebook Marketplace for months, she recently decided to keep it — due to its sentimental value tied to memories of her father, who died in 1997.

“The [are] all these sounds… little balls hitting the metal needles – there’s a whole rhythm,” Brodowski recalls. By the age of six, she was playing the Japanese import in Nagle’s dude’s den.

Brodowski is one of thousands of people across Canada and the United States who own or trade in vintage pachinko machines that have been decommissioned by pachinko game parlors in Japan and shipped to department stores Northeast. Americans in the 1970s.

What is pachinko?

The mechanical game, which uses electricity for its light bulbs and the jackpot sounds “ding, ding, ding”, became Japan’s national pastime after World War II.

Unlike traditional western pinball, which uses fins to propel a single metal ball against various objects to score points, a pachinko player uses a handle to pull dozens of small metal balls, trying to knock the most possible between the pins. in small cups or catchers.

A ball entering a catcher triggers a payout, in which a number of balls are dropped into a tray at the front of the machine.

Although pachinko may be a type of gambling game in Japan where players can exchange metal balls for tokens at the parlor, which can be exchanged off-premises for cash, it is not a wagering device registered in Canada. Canadians can own the machine legally as long as it is for personal entertainment only.

Object of art reminiscent of childhood

Mark Faiman runs his gaming machine resale and repair business near Indianapolis, serving customers across North America for over a decade. He received his first pachinko machine as a teenager from his father in Los Angeles 50 years ago.

Now, as a collector of more than 200 pachinko machines, Faiman recalls how the Japanese import craze died down after Atari video games became popular in the early ’80s, but he says he There has been a resurgence of interest in the game during the pandemic, a time when many people used to clean their houses and put their dusty old pachinko machines on the market.

“One of their relatives gave them the machine [when they were kids] … [and they said]”I want to add one to my house to play with,” he said of one buyer. “They are [also] looking at them as works of art.”

Mark Faiman, pictured with his 70s Sankyo pachinko machine in Indianapolis, says there is renewed interest in North America in owning the machines as games or collectible art. (Winston Szeto/CBC)

Sentimental value: To sell or not to sell?

In April, Jarett Wong sold his non-functional Sankyo pachinko machine for $100 as collectible art to a married couple in East Vancouver who live several blocks from his former home where he received the game as Christmas present from his late grandmother in 1979.

Wong says he has fond memories of his grandmother as a kind-hearted elderly woman who would give him pocket money without his parents knowing, so when several potential buyers put him down, he thought to keep the machine as a childhood memory to remind him of his kindness.

“If someone had offered me less [than $100]it would probably still be sitting in my garage,” he said.

Burnaby pinball dealer John Robertson says he’s seen many people online listing their vintage pachinko machines for several hundred dollars because of their sentimental value, but he’s offering, at most, just $50. by machine, because these are not rare products, and most of them require a lot of work before they can be resold.

Some still have a strong emotional attachment to their machines. Robertson’s advice?

“It’s usually best given or sold to a friend or family member.”

John Robertson, pictured with a vintage pachinko machine he repairs in his workshop in Burnaby, British Columbia, says owners with strong emotional attachments to their machines can still sell them or gift them to family and friends friends. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)
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